French Competition Authority Fined Google €500 Million for Failure to Comply With Previous Order

By Bill Toulas / July 14, 2021

The French Competition Authority (Autorite de la Concurrence) has fined Google €500 million for not complying with several injunctions imposed on the company since April 2020. As described in the relevant announcement, Google appears to have completely disregarded the imposed injunctions that were part of interim measures relevant to rights for online press publishers and agencies. The competition authority received several reports from these entities about Google’s unwillingness to comply, so further action was required.

It all started in 2019 when France passed a new law called “Digital Copyright Directive.” According to the new law, whenever an entity like Google showed up news results (with snippets) on the Search results of French users, the corresponding news agencies and publishers should receive a small compensation. Instead of complying, Google decided to stop showing content from EU publishers in France, avoiding dealing with compensation complexities entirely.

This was a blatant abuse of power that became even more crystal clear when Google agreed to start showing results of press publishers who agreed to no compensation. Other publishers who wouldn’t accept such an unfair deal launched complaints, saying that Google never sat in good faith to negotiate fair terms with them.

At this point, the French authority demands Google to change its course of action and provide a detailed report on what exactly it's planning to do in the next two months. Failure to do so will result in additional fines of €300,000 to €900,000 per day. From now on, Google must move transparently and start negotiations with all publishers no longer than three months after the news agency request has reached the company.

As the announcement characteristically writes:

Google's behavior is the result of a deliberate, elaborate, and systematic strategy of non-compliance with the injunctions, and appears as the continuation of the opposition strategy of Google, put in place for several years, to oppose the very principle of related rights during the discussion of the directive on related rights, then to minimize its concrete scope as much as possible.

From its side, Google responded to this announcement saying that they have acted in good faith throughout the entire process and adding that they are already very close to finalizing a deal with AFP (Agence France-Presse).

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